Welcome to our Author Interview series.
Today we're featuring an interview with John Allison, author of Saturday Night at Sarah Joy's. Our author interview series provides an opportunity for our readers to get to know our authors on a deeper level and also learn more about the types of books we're publishing.
Philadelphian John Allison spent 25 years at a Big Ten University teaching Chemistry, and is now home teaching at The College of New Jersey. He enjoys constructing plays, short stories, and monologues. The world premiere of his first play, "Bud's Used People Lot" (2004), was produced by the Twin City Players (suburban Chicago). Jersey Voices selected two of his One-Act plays for their productions of short play collections by Jersey Playwrights. 23 of his monologues were read in Kate Daly's Monologue Mania (Bloomfield, NJ) over a two-year period. Look for him on the Barnegat Bay, on the sailing vessel Abby-Gale. All royalties from sales of Saturday Night at Sarah Joy’s will go to the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund. As a resident of the State of New Jersey, John knows how much help his coastal neighbors still need to rebuild, and he is happy to make this commitment.
Synopsis: Saturday Night at Sarah Joy's
Relax in the world of a unique local salon, and enjoy meeting owner Sarah Joy, her interesting staff and above-average clients. Follow Sarah from starting her business, knee deep in dog poop and broken glass, past some disembodied heads, through a ghostly visit, and to a meeting with Miss America. On occasional Saturday nights, selected clients gather for an evening of haircuts, wine, food and conversation. One particular Saturday night challenges the group, as they find themselves being tested by a shotgun, resting against Sarah's forehead. By night's end, some are hospitalized, others are arrested, and everyone is changed.
Who is you favorite character in your book and why? There are two, and for each of them this book is a kind of coming-of-age story about them. One is a teenage hearing-impaired girl, the other is an aging woman who’s losing her hair as fast as everything else!
Why do you think your readers are going to enjoy your book? It’s not a conventional story, but a slice-of-life story. Readers get to know the characters, watch them interact, and see them at their best and worst. I’m still learning about the book! A reader commented on how many of the characters were strong women. It wasn’t planned but it does appear to be true. Another commented that it might be similar to Steel Magnolias, another slice-of-life story with perhaps no main character, quirky, and about a hair salon!
Can you describe your main character in 3 words? Great question. No. Depending on where you are in the book, you may make different decisions of who the main character actually is. If you take a step back, life usually doesn’t have main characters. Sometimes you’re one of the many, at times you have to step up and serve as a hero (or heroine).
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do? My father constantly talked. Often he would talk just to make you smile. Occasionally he would tell stories of growing up in Philadelphia, or being in the Army, or he would tell (one of many versions of) stories of his family. My mother was one of ten children, so I had no shortage of aunts and uncles. Many of them were storytellers as well, so it is a natural thing for me. Often, writing is the medium, but I also enjoy the spoken word such as theatre and monologues. Writing is one way to make contact with another person, through a story, to point out that we all have shared experiences. No one is alone.
If you could visit a place for research, where would it be? I’d go to Stardate 1411.1, to visit James T. Kirk, Captain of the Enterprise. I would like to spend some time in the Star Trek future, in a time when, for the known universe, racism, bigotry and stupid people are history.
What are your strengths as a writer? At some point in your life, you get to stop apologizing for how you do the things you do, and just be yourself. You do this by labeling all that you do, things that raise eyebrows, as quirky. I’m there! Also, I have a sense of humor with a dash of sarcasm sprinkled in. To me sarcasm is an art, not a negative thing. You may love it or hate it but you can’t ignore it.
Where did you grow up? How did your hometown (or other places you have lived) inspire your writing? I grew up in suburban Philadelphia in a little town of 10,000 residents stuffed into one square mile. I was very fortunate to have lived in a row house, where people sit on their attached porches or on their “stoops” and talk every day. Philadelphia was a great place to be as a kid! It had everything I could want. I’ve lived in academic areas for most of my adult life; they have been an interesting contrast to my early years. Neither of my parents finished high school and I was the first in the family to go to college. I’ve been very fortunate in always being immersed in stimulating environments.
What is your favorite genre? I’m not interested in genre. I hope I never know the genre of a book I’m reading. Genres are just cubbyholes that won’t be around for much longer, I hope. We need more books with urban science fiction lesbian themes! Labels just constrain us for no reason.
Have you ever sat and just watched the people go by? I grew up on boardwalks along the Jersey shore, so yes! Now I always watch with the hope that each one will be carrying a copy of Saturday Night at Sarah Joy’s!
Why did you decide to publish with Infinity Publishing? I had a story that I wanted to tell, and wanted to learn how to publish a book. I spent considerable time comparing on-demand publishers, and decided that Infinity could give me what I wanted without having to sell the family cow.